Bernard-Henri Lévy: "What struck me was our incredible docility"
Bernard-Henri Lévy is a French public intellectual. Often referred to in France simply as BHL, he was one of the leaders of the "Nouveaux Philosophes" (New Philosophers) movement in 1976. In 2015, The Boston Globe has said that he is "perhaps the most prominent intellectual in France today". His opinions, political activism and publications have also been the subject of several controversies over the years. (from wikipedia)Le Point: Isn't your book above all an epidermal reaction to a pandemic that has deprived you of your usual lifestyle?
Bernard-Henri Lévy : Obviously not. It has deprived us all, absolutely all, of our freedom to come and go. It has made our homes voluntary prisons. And she brought us back - again with our assent! - at the age of the nursery and kindergarten. It has nothing to do with this or that lifestyle.
Hell, unlike the commonplace, is not the others. It's yourself. It is the closing of oneself on oneself.
For a cosmopolitan spirit like you, closing borders and airports is hell, right?
Not just for me! For all those whose horizon is not limited to the family, local or hexagonal area. Hell, unlike the commonplace, is not the others. It's yourself. It is the closing of oneself on oneself. All the confidences of confinement that were going to repeat that the unhappiness of men comes from entertainment and their inability to remain alone, in a room, with themselves, just forgot the rest of the Paschal sentence: "The self is hateful." Airports, in front of that, are, in effect, anterooms, doors of freedom, airlocks towards others.
So you are not one of those who saw in this confinement the occasion for a return to oneself made up of readings, meditation and cooking?
What is a return on oneself? And what is this life on the cheap if not a convenient justification to finally give an arm of honor to your fellow men and the rest of the world? I was in Paris during this period. And this deserted city which I heard everywhere that it was finally beautiful because emptied of its inhabitants, seemed, on the contrary, tragically disfigured. Soulless. Without a living soul. With those rare frightened passers-by who, when they thought they were, avoided each other like the plague and saw themselves as a threat. So, I know that there are "containment diarists" who claim to have deconfigured an old edition of Joyce or Proust who slept the sleep of the just in their shelves. I have doubts…
Did the government really have a choice? Could containment have been avoided?
No doubt not. However, when the time comes, we will have to look closely at what has been done in Sweden or in the Netherlands. But what I'm sure of is that we, the individuals, had the choice to grumble, to obey reluctantly and, instead of raving about never having been as free as without occupation, to take the measure of this civic, social and moral regression.
In this case, are you not closer to Trump and Bolsonaro than to Conte, for example?
Are you kidding? These two were in denial, which, at the time, was both stupid and criminal. In addition, it did not escape you that they took the opportunity to impose their junk. Bolsonaro, to create a climate of near civil war and clean up the favelas. Trump, to fulfill his dream of putting a wall between the United States and the rest of the world in general - starting with the Latinos.
Viruses do not speak, viruses do not have a message - a virus has been, since time immemorial, pure disorder, pure death.
The virus is not just a debate among scientists. Intellectuals, politicians and stars interpret it. The Covid would have a message for us. Is it serious doctor ?
Ah yes, it's serious! And it is true both of Trump who said to us: "The virus votes America first " and of this fringe of the left who replied: "The virus is the dawn of the Big Evening"; it tells us that we have enjoyed too much, benefited too much, consumed too much, and it offers us one last chance for redemption. Faced with this, facing this virological messianism, facing these rentiers of dread and death, we must not tire of reminding the basic principle dear to my master Georges Canguilhem: "Viruses do not speak, viruses have no message - a virus has been, since time immemorial, a pure disorder, pure death. "
Who are the most affected?
I tell you, on the one hand Trump and his French followers, like Philippe de Villiers: "The Covid is, after the Notre-Dame fire, the continuation by other means of the wrath of Heaven", and , on the other, those of collapsologists who had the indecency to say, too, "Blessed is the virus which manages to operate, in five minutes, this decarbonation of air and spirits that we have been advocating in vain for decades. "
Malthusianism, antihumanism and penitential marshmallow
Some environmentalists have particularly distinguished themselves in this case, starting with Nicolas Hulot. Listening to them, nature would take revenge and the virus would be a "great opportunity". Isn't this a kind of radical anthropophobia expressed there?
It was Nicolas Hulot who launched, first, this idea of an "ultimatum" addressed to sinners that we are by Mother Nature mistreated. Then, afterwards, you had there the point of convergence of several ideological currents. Malthusianism and its theory of "extra men". Levi-Straussian antihumanism and its idea that the real virus is man. All wrapped in a penitential marshmallow straight out of Father Paneloux's sermons in La Peste and Égisthe in Les Mouches .
Edwy Plenel spoke of a “revolutionary virus”…
What struck me, alas, was our incredible docility. Even among the poorest and most exposed. Go see the Place de la République for the queues, a little longer each Saturday, of people who have fallen into precariousness who come to the Restos du Coeur distributions: no masks, no frost and a resignation to split the soul.
Covid, for you, is not a disease of liberalism?
Admit that the hypothesis is funny for an epidemic born in the heart of post-communist China…
You perceive in the current "invitations to recovery" an echo of the "sermons of 1940". Those of Montherlant and Morand, for example. Still your obsession with "French ideology"!
It's not my worst book, you know! And my concept, at the time, of transcendental Pétainism worked well enough to say what unites these people on the right and on the left. Basically, the bishop of Bayonne and François Ruffin…
What do you think will be the political consequences of this pandemic?
For example, social distancing. If it is just a sanitary measure and this measure is temporary, OK. But imagine that it settles. Imagine that, as the little father of the American people, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has just said, the habit of shaking hands "will never come again". Well it would be a beautiful sign of solidarity between men that would disappear. It would be a great leap back in the history of human brotherhood.
A masked humanity is a humanity of distrust, suspicion and, one day, hatred.
Do you wear a mask?
Sometimes. As little as possible. And forced and forced. You know the theory of Emmanuel Levinas. The relationship with the other, ethics, it begins with the face-to-face between two naked faces, uncovered and who discover each other in their overwhelming brotherhood. A masked humanity, I'm sorry, but first it is an oxymoron, and then it is a humanity of mistrust, suspicion and, one day, hatred.
What do you think will be the other political legacy of this pandemic?
Our freedoms. I am terrified to see, there again, how easily we accepted to see these freedoms cut. Tracing populations, visibly accepted. The sniffer labradors, trained to detect the “smell” of Covid carriers, who seem to annoy no one. And then the incredible nerve of these contemptors of the “kerosene left” who, like Thomas Piketty, seem to assume the right to decide which businesses, or which trips, are or are not essential - and, there still, not many people for contradict them.
Security has become the primary concern ...
My thesis is that we are witnessing a shift in civilization that has everything of a landslide. Since Rousseau, the Republic was founded on a social contract. Today, against the backdrop of hygienism gone mad, we are in the process of passing to the vital contract (give me all or part of your freedoms, I will exchange them for a health guarantee).
You seem to blame the French for having respected government directives ...
I don't blame them for anything. Besides, they had no choice. What would worry me, on the other hand, would be the "soft addiction" to exceptional measures that have become the rule. For a philosopher, there is in all this a scent of “voluntary servitude” in the La Boétie way (the kingdom of my freedoms against the elixir of security) and of “end of Kojévienne history” (a smooth, purified world of its negativity, naturalized - an Orwellian would say "a farm for animals ...).
As you read, some will say, "BHL is still teaching lessons." What did he want? 150,000 Covid deaths in France? The old decimated? "
Let's talk about it, the "old guys"! They were left to die, in the Ehpad, of loneliness and sorrow. And there was no outcry, as far as I know, when Dr. Karine Lacombe declared on BFM that there were elderly people who we chose not to put on a respirator…
Civilizational and global tsunami.
Did Macron manage this crisis well?
Yes, rather. But I repeat: this is not the problem. It was the civilizational and global tsunami that we had to face.
For a few weeks, we still had the impression that France was headed by the Scientific Council ...
Michel Foucault said this dream of "medical power" and of a "medical junta": he is as old as the modern West. But there, the "knowledgeable" were playing on velvet. The discredit of political speech ... The rise of populism ... The disarray of opinions ... The cult of expertise and evaluation ... And, once again, the "will to heal" become the last word of the "will to power ". Fortunately, the most reasonable doctors have put an end to it. And the Republic has resumed its rights.
The deaths of the Covid, like cancer or diabetes, are not martyrs of history.
This Scientific Council launched the idea of a memorial for the victims of the Covid. What inspires you?
Grotesque. And, above all, indecent. There is a memorial to the Resistance. A Holocaust memorial and another for the Armenian genocide. The deaths of the Covid, like cancer or diabetes, are not martyrs of history.
You regret that the confinement did not give rise to a democratic debate. What did you want? An extraordinary session of Parliament? Referendum ?
I do not say that. On the other hand, I think of all this airtime devoted to sad pythies who came to shine the litany of the dead or to orchestrate to the point of nausea the ballet of hypotheses and often of ignorance. I would have liked to have devoted a portion to Africa's debt, to the hunger riots that the shutdown of the planet was increasing or to the Islamists who, in Kurdistan and elsewhere, were resuming hope.
What do you think of Didier Raoult?
This is the type of silly debate that this period of madness gave rise to.
Have intellectuals lived up to this crisis?
It depends on which. Certainly not those who, like Emmanuel Todd, called for putting politicians in prison. Or those who, like Bruno Latour, have perched on the shoulders of the dead to sell us their world after.
The Popular Front is Blum. Onfray, now, it's Doriot.
What does Michel Onfray's “Popular Front” project inspire in you?
This semantic diversion is odious. The Popular Front is Blum. Onfray, now, it's Doriot.
You regret that the virus has been the only subject for the past three months. What other event should have caught our attention?
All. We lived - and sometimes continue to live - in a parallel world where nothing else existed except contamination figures, curves that had to be flattened, peaks, bells, mathematical modeling. A novmonde in a way. And farewell to the damned of the Earth! Bye bye the misery of the world! I will not forget the day I returned from Bangladesh and its Rohingya camps. It was the time when France closed its borders. On social networks (and, in fact, increasingly anti-social) I had become a bad citizen, a polluter of the planet, a CO2 criminal. It's sad.
"This virus that drives you mad", by Bernard-Henri Lévy. To be released June 10.
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